A deal struck this week between negotiators for the European Parliament and the member states on the European Union’s budget for 2013 is now to be put to the leaders of the political groups in the Parliament before it is considered by MEPs on the budgets committee.
A meeting of the Parliament’s budgets committee scheduled for Monday (3 December), which was to have voted on the deal, has been put back to Tuesday. Martin Schulz, the president of the Parliament, has decided that first there must be a meeting of the leaders of the political groups – known as the conference of presidents.
His decision is an indication of the political sensitivity of the draft deal and suggests that its approval is not a foregone conclusion.
Alain Lamassoure, the chairman of the budgets committee, who took a leading part in the negotiations with the Council of Ministers this week, said that both the two biggest political groups in the Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, had problems with the outcome of the negotiations which went on throughout the night of Wednesday before a deal was concluded on Thursday afternoon (28-29 November).
The deal includes a revision to the 2012 budget as well as the proposal for a 2013 budget. What the negotiators agreed was an addition of €6 billion to the budget for 2012, in place of the €9bn that the European Commission had said was needed, and a budget for 2013 of €150.9bn in commitments and €132.8bn in payments (instead of €151.1bn and €137.8bn as the Commission had proposed).
The potential shortfall in funding for the 2012 budget remains a point of contention. The Commission has trimmed €100m from its projections of payment needs, leaving a gap of €2.9bn between the €9bn that it proposed in the autumn and yesterday’s deal of €6bn.
The gap mostly concerns structural funds. €1.5bn is for the closure of programmes from the previous programming period, 2000-06, where it is deemed that the delay has already been so great that further delay is possible. €1.4bn is for projects where payments are currently suspended, pending checks.
This week’s deal includes an understanding (to be attached as some form of appendix to the budget text) that the Commission will come forward with a draft revision to the 2013 budget early in the new year asking for money to meet these deferred payments.
Lamassoure said that although there was uneasiness on the Parliament’s side about the size of the gap between what the EU would be obliged to pay for 2012, and the funds available, he felt that to get the €6bn approved now was the least bad option.
If a revision to the 2012 budget could not be approved by the full Parliament on 13 December, then the entire sum of €9bn would be deferred to 2013. That sum was so large that accommodating it in 2013 might bring the EU up against the annual limit on appropriations for 2013 laid down in the long-term, ie seven-year budget, for 2006-13. To revisit that agreement would be a much bigger task, requiring unanimity voting on the side of the Council.
The deal before the Parliament next week, said Lamassoure, was being presented as “take-it-or-leave-it”.
It was presented to the member states’ ambassadors to the EU today. They are expected to approve it next week and forward it to the meeting of justice and home affairs ministers on Thursday (6 November) for final approval on the Council’s side.
On the Parliament’s side, if the deal is given the go-ahead by political group leaders on Monday and by the budgets committee on Tuesday, the 2013 budget and the revision of the 2012 budget will together be put to a vote of the entire Parliament on 13 December.
Without such approval at the last plenary session of 2012, the EU would be forced to fall back for 2013 on a budget of provisional twelfths, ie, a monthly figure derived from the budget for the previous year, adjusted for inflation.
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